Please excuse me, I haven’t introduced this week’s book yet. It’s not much of a looker, with its hideous seventies photography and odd choice of cover image, but I took pity on it in a book shop in Hay-on-Wye last year, because I was in a good mood and because middle eastern food is my favourite, so how exactly was I meant to resist a book called ‘The Complete Middle East Cookbook’? And it’s nothing if not ambitious, covering Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Armenia, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudia Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Iran, Afghanistan, Israel and the Gulf States (that’s Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, thanks Wikipedia).
I started the week by making a huge batch of rice and lentils (a bit like this, but without the pasta). Then today, I made falafel, because I didn’t really feel like branching out into uncharted middle eastern food territory when I’m already pretty certain that falafel are one of the best culinary creations of all time. Of the several recipes for falafel (turns out a lot of those countries actually have quite similar diets) I went with the one from Israel, because it seemed the simplest. I had to adapt it to omit the bulgur wheat, because apparently I’d run out, but I can’t say I missed it. I also baked the falafel instead of deep frying them, because I don’t go in for unnecessary deep frying as a rule. It makes them a bit less authentic, but they get a nice crisp crust which I like.
Served with rice and lentils from one of the Gulf States, yoghurt with cucumber and sultanas from Iran, and tahini sauce from Lebanon/Syria/Jordan. A Middle East feast.
Falafel Makes about 14
One tin of chickpeas, or equivalent weight soaked and cooked dried chickpeas
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp plain flour
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
Heat the oven to 180c.
Put all the ingredients into a food processor and mix until combined into a rough paste. Add a little water, just until the mixture is soft enough to be squeezed into a ball. Check the seasoning. Shape the mix into small balls each about the size of a walnut and place them on a baking tray drizzled with oil. Trickle a little more oil over the top and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. That’s it!
Adapted from Tess Mallos’ ‘The Complete Middle East Cookbook’ (that’s not the version I have, by the way, the photo on that cover is almost nice).